Tag Archives: Love

To Those I Love

In my previous blog post I mentioned that my family has been through a series of tragedies over the past six months, including the unexpected death of my mother on June the 8th of this year. I did not learn until the day of the Memorial Service that she died of a massive heart attack, with no previous history of heart trouble. My wife surmised that my mother must have died from a broken heart because of all that has beset our family. I think she might just be on to something.

My mother was 89-years-old when she died and I am sure that many might assert that, at 89, it couldn’t have been all that unexpected. Yes, she had a good run but we all expected that she had several more years in her – given that she had no medical history that might have suggested otherwise.

My mother’s passing has raised several issues as she was the family scribe, as it were. It was she who kept track of births, movements, and other family demographics. It was she who sent out the annual birthday cards to every child, grandchild, and great-grandchild. She was an avid letter writer and a beloved pen pal to several of her descendants including my youngest daughter, who was also my mother’s youngest grandchild. All in all, my mother was the matriarchal glue that held the family together.

My youngest sister started an annual family picnic and reunion several years ago in an effort to bring my mother’s descendants, their families, other relatives, and close friends together for personal encounters that had long ago slipped by the wayside as school, spouses, in-laws, and the miles brought about separation. After the Memorial Service las Saturday my younger sister asked me if there was any point of trying to keep the family picnic and reunion alive to which I resoundingly replied: “Yes, there is.”

We don’t know for sure who will step in and fill her roles. My youngest sister suggested she might be the one to send out the birthday cards, but she has far too much to deal with as it is. Myself, I would like to automate the family demographics somehow but have not yet solidified a plan.

PrairieHillCemetaryIn the meantime my mother was interred this afternoon in the Family Cemetery, back home in Oklahoma, where she will lie alongside my father and baby brother, whom we lost in August 2000 at the age of 35.

Now, I had hoped that the death of my mother would signal the end of the series of tragedies but I received a letter yesterday from Anchorage, Alaska and I knew what it contained without a need to open it. My son-in-law was standing next to me, as the letter had gone to our old address, and I turned to him and said: “My (half) sister has died.” I opened the letter to discover that my father’s first born had passed on the 6th of June, just two days prior to my own mother’s passing.

Below the news was a poem much loved by my sister that she had asked be shared with those she loved upon her passing. I checked on the Internet and the poem exists in different forms but was always attributed to Author Unknown. Although I have read poems of a similar sentiment this was the first time I had read this one and I would like to share it at this time.

~ To Those I Love ~
When I am gone, just release me, let me go, so I can move into my afterglow.
You musn’t tie me down with your tears; let’s be happy that we had so many years.
I gave you my love, you can only guess how much you gave me in happiness.
I thank you for the love you each have shown, but now it’s time I traveled on alone.
So grieve for me awhile, if you grieve you must, then let your grief be comforted with trust.
It’s only for a while that we must part, so bless the memories within your heart.
And then, when you must come this way alone, I’ll greet you with a smile and a “Welcome Home.”

In Memory Of:
Nola Billie (Nichols) Richards
June 1, 1934 – June 6, 2015

E-Ticket Ride


At our A Course in Miracles meeting yesterday we were reading Chapters 8 and 9 in the Manual for Teachers but were having a lot of asides and discussions about why we are here in this plane, on this Earth, in this life, and in this dream. We talked about our ongoing challenges, or opportunities, as a previous mentor of mine liked to impress upon his grasshoppers. Now some of my fellow travelers like to point out how we must have chosen to be here in the first place, which got me to thinking that as furious and intense as this roller coaster journey is that: “Life is the ultimate E-Ticket Ride.”

Now, not all of my fellow travelers knew that the E-Ticket Rides were the premium rides at Disneyland in Anaheim but a quick explanation from one of my dear friends clarified the metaphor and we were back to the discussion on whether or not we chose to have this experience. It’s that ancient musing that always begs the question: If I had known then what I know now – would I have chosen life?

There are a few personages from history who have garnered my utmost respect and one of those giants in my esteem was William Blake who addressed the question with elegance in The Book of Thel. Now Thel had the opportunity to leave the Vales of Har and see first hand what awaited her should she choose to be born. What she saw disturbed her greatly and when she came to her grave she asked herself a series of questions, shrieked, and fled back into the Vales of Har.

One of my dear friends remarked that she, like many of us, have earned far too many scars on this pilgrimage, which got me to thinking about the Boogeyman from Tim Burtons The Nightmare before Christmas. What can I say? It was a very visual discussion. Anyway, the Boogeyman was held together by a thread that when pulled released the consortium inside that without there was no substance, or even existence, to the feared Boogeyman. In some ways I think we can view our scars as the badges of honor that we have survived the challenges hurled at us and actually can serve to be the bindings that hold us intact – given our perception.

I believe that, had I been in Thel’s singular position of perceiving life before she had to endure it, I would still have chosen life as long as I saw that along with the pain there was also the happiness. As it was pointed out in the ACIM Manual for Teachers we perceive because of contrasts, which begs the question: Could I know joy without knowing misery? Not that I know the answer but the philosopher in me believes that it is worth pondering.

When I was a kid the E-Ticket was the most treasured in the booklet. Indeed, to the extent that junk drawers all over Southern California held numerous unused A, B, C, and D-Tickets without an unused E-Ticket in sight and I wonder if the junk drawers in the Vales of Har look the same.

Life, the ultimate E-Ticket Ride, replete with its Tunnels of Love and its Chambers of Horrors. Yes, I have my jagged scars and my wretched nightmares but I also have Love and all is well.

Mind Games

According to Merriam-Webster a mind game is: “A psychological tactic used to intimidate or manipulate – usually used in plural (played mind games with his opponent).”

It has occurred to me that some of the biggest mind games we face are those that we practice on ourselves. When I was diagnosed with degenerative joint disease due to the fact that I had broken my wrist a couple of years back (and didn’t realize it at the time) the pain that I had been under intensified to the point of being unbearable and did not lessen with the NSAIDs I took.

I did quite a bit of research and discovered that the primary cause of pain in arthritic sufferers seems to be due to inflammation, which is caused by the foods we eat. So I embarked on what’s called the ‘Arthritis Diet’ wherein I eliminated from my diet all red meat, all poultry, all dairy, the nightshades (tomatoes, eggplant, and potatoes), to name a few of the things on the no-no list. The dietary change helped and the swelling in the joints went down, which lessened the pain but prompted friends to offer their concerns that I might not be getting enough protein, iron, and other key nutrients. Voila, more research to conduct.

Things were going pretty good but then the pain returned in earnest to where it was constant and my poor psyche became more and more depressed and then this morning I awakened in high spirits and almost no pain whatsoever. I told my wife my good news and she wondered how much of my agony might have been psychosomatic, which caused me to wonder what came first: the depression over my pending surgery or the pain. Then I got to thinking about how people seem to go and go and then one day they’re told “you have cancer,” or some other such diagnosis, and then they quickly deteriorate and possibly die. Sometimes it even seems like knowing was what killed them.

It’s easier to shield against the mind games others try to play on us then it is to shield against the ones we play on ourselves. As for myself I’ve found a shield I didn’t know I had and plan to wear it bravely and look forward to overcoming the reconstructive surgery on my wrist and muddling through the long recovery period. And, God willing, six or seven months from now I’ll be able to once again sit and noodle on my guitar, play some favorite songs on my piano, and do all the other things a person with two healthy hands can.

John Lennon, in his song Mind Games, sang: “Love is the answer and you know that for sure. Love is a flower you got to let it grow.”

Love is also a good place to find that shield.

The Loss of Innocence

It’s a common theme in literature and popular song that one loses their innocence with their first sexual experience as in Don Williams’ song “Old Coyote Town” where he sings about the “drive-in where my innocence died.”

I suppose this notion has been around for thousands of years but I think the real loss of innocence is that singular moment in time when you realize that this world of ours is not always a warm, safe, and friendly place to be. For many that realization comes all too soon; like with the unwanted, neglected, abused, tortured, and/or discriminated child. For some, maybe it was a loved one lost to violence that changed their view of the world.

For several years now, whenever I’ve been asked what I would like to achieve in the future, the first thing that comes to mind is that I would like to regain the innocence that I don’t remember having.

Being a child of the post WWII nuclear age I cannot seem to recall a time, when I was young boy, where we weren’t expected to live in terror of the Russians and their Atomic Bombs. The elementary school I attended regularly reinforced these fears with their Drop, Duck, and Cover Drills. Of course, there was also the monthly test of the air raid siren that could be heard for miles and miles across the South Bay. Then if these things, and the daily televised horrors, weren’t enough, we had the Cuban Missile Crisis in October of 1962 and most of us were led to believe that we would all soon be dead – unless you had a bomb shelter.

At the height of this particular reign of terror it seemed that every third business on the busy boulevard I grew up on sold and installed bomb shelters. Now this may be somewhat of an exaggeration but I can tell you on the next block south of ours there were three such businesses on the west side of that boulevard. That’s three out of seven on a single short block. Now my family never had the money to install one but roughly half the kids I knew in school had shelters in their back yards and for a time there was a class division on the playground between the haves and have-nots. Go figure that.

Well, the days of nuclear fear passed and were replaced by the Vietnam War (or was that a police action), which was then replaced by yet another and then another crisis in the ongoing saga of our supposedly civilized society. Sometimes it seems that to be a citizen herein is to be constantly exposed to fear in a society that is always at war with something – be it poverty, crime, terrorism, or even yet another country that most Americans seem never to have heard of before.

For some time I was a youth group leader at the Unity Church where we attended and one of the things I taught our teens were the 5 Unity Principles, the third of which is:

“I create my experiences by what I choose to think and what I feel and believe.”

Now, I may never find the innocence that I never had but I refuse to let myself be dragged into thinking, feeling, and believing that I need to be afraid any more because; “there is no fear in love.”

Do All Things With Love

My daughter has a t-shirt on which the phrase “Do All Things With Love” is screened. It’s a wonderful sentiment to say the least but it struck me that the message has been around for thousands years and we still all haven’t learned it.

Way back during the Vietnam War we were bombarded on the television screen by footage from the battlefield. People died every night on the six o’clock news and there were so many of us were terribly outraged and so sit-in’s where orchestrated, Peace Marches and Rallies like the Freedom Marches that preceded them. Some of us marched, some of us sat-in, some of us rallied, some of us burned our draft cards, and some of us died in the crossfire – but one thing I remember that we all did was sing.

At one Peace Rally at an Inglewood park we sang Country Joe’s “I-Feel-Like-I’m-a-Fixin’-to-Die-Rag,” and we sang: “One Tin Soldier,” “Turn! Turn! Turn,” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” and, of course, Bobby Darin’s “A Simple Song of Freedom.” We also sang the old camp songs that we learned as Boy Scouts like; “Michael Row the Boat Ashore,” “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” and Woody’s “This Land is Your Land,” to which we composed endless verses. But we also sang the songs of love like the Jackie DeShannon hit “What the World Need’s Now is Love.” And there was “San Francisco,” “Get Together,” and “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing.”

My all time favorite song from that era was the aforementioned “A Simple Song of Freedom” written by Bobby Darin and first recorded by Tim Hardin. Thee is one verse in particular that I’m especially fond of. It’s:

Now no doubt some folks enjoy doin’ battle
Like presidents, prime ministers or kings
So let’s all build them shelves where they can fight it out among themselves
and leave the people be who love to sing

We’ve had Freedom Marches, Peace Marches, Million Man Marches, Anti-Nuclear Marches, 99% Marches, Suffragette Marches, Gay Rights Marches, Fair and Living Wage Marches, and who can count how many more types of marches have occurred in the past 2,000 years.

Maybe it’s time for some Love Marches and address all of the above under the same envelope.

I hope you “Do all things with love” – and sing.

Time Enough For Love

Way back in 1973 Robert Heinlein’s science fiction novel “Time Enough for Love” was first published. I was a nineteen year old student at El Camino Junior College and the novel made quite an impact on me at the time although I did not yet learn the lesson of having time enough for love until much later.

In 1973 my youngest brother Robert was an adorable nine-year-old Cub Scout and the favored offspring of my father who was later to be in a state of denial over the shortcomings of youth. I married in 1973, began working full-time as a model builder for Xerox in El Segundo, and was a full-time college student who did not seem to have enough time for love. It was to be a disease that would prevail for the next decade of my life.

Robert, like many bright young people, was introduced to and swallowed by addictions to drugs and alcohol. It was a topic of discussion at our “A Course in Miracles” meeting yesterday as we read from Chapter 25 and a too oft repeated story. Now, while my brother Robert was alive and struggling with his addictions I made the mistake of judging him using his drug use as the scale. Of course, I did not know that passing judgment upon him was a mistake at the time. That would not come until his weakened body gave up the struggle in August of 2000, the month I would turn forty-six, and begin a long period of wishing I had taken time enough for love.

We have been on the road this first part of August making a circuitous journey visiting family through Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and then back home to California. One of the highlights of the trip was a short stop over in Las Vegas to reconnect with a woman who was, for all intent, my little sister. Visiting with her, and her mother, excavated many fond memories that are indeed nothing short of little treasures that I do so cherish as I stare down upon my fifty-ninth stalking through the underbrush of years gone by.

We were driving from Kingman to Gallup on the thirteenth anniversary of my brother Robert’s death – after some days visiting with my son, daughter-in-law, and our two granddaughters. Today we are all meeting at my daughter’s house to join in celebrating our grandson’s seventh birthday, which is to say that sometimes it might take a little effort, or maybe even a huge effort, to take time enough for love but the rewards are well worth it.

Jobs, careers, addictions, and a myriad of other forces work to push us off our path from “womb to tomb” but I’ve learned the best defenses against those dark interlopers is to abstain from passing judgment and to take time enough for love.

Time Travel

I returned abruptly to the present at 6:08 am. It was painful to say the least. In fact, I continued to lie in my bed until 7:30 hoping to reclaim just a small piece of the wonder that I had been enjoying.

I was way back in the yesterdays with my first best friend, the first person I remember loving, and that one person that once asked me for something that I did not possess at the time. In last night’s escape we journeyed on the back of my time machine from the southern Arizona desert, where a praying monk once blessed us while bats gathered nectar from the night blooming flowers of the saguaros, to the Canadian Rockies where Alberta and British Columbia are divided by some of the most spectacular scenery on our little planet. What a Joy it was to pilot my Magna through the mountains with her once again holding tight about my waist, combating the wind by shouting into my ear on the Trans-Canadian Highway; Yoho, Golden, Kimbasket Lake, and her long hair blowing in the wind. Freedom, as it was meant to be.

I once read an article by a physicist who claimed that time travel was theoretically possible but it would require more energy to pull off than was contained within our visible universe. That is probably a very good thing as I loathe imagining how much more we could screw up with our simian brains. I for one have never really been able to wrap my mind around this dimension of time because, from my perspective, there is only the eternal Now and this human construct of time is simply a yardstick by which we measure the distance between events.

But, I’m thankful for my little time travels when I’m fortunate to be blessed by them. To be able to once again enjoy the company of those whose corporal experiences were cut way too short is nothing short of a miracle. Carol took her own life on Monday, December 13, 1976 and there is not a day goes by that I don’t have a thought and a prayer for my first best friend.


Concealed from life in dreary black linen
Abject love lies in endless decay.
Robbed of life by that curious demon,
On shadowy wings of Cimmerian gray.

Legended by ancestral states, to usher
Journeys to unfamiliar lands, where helpless
On the shores of your Stygian master,
You yearn for love you cannot possess.

Haunted by a silent phantom, my vague
Apparition of virgin splendor
Resurrects anew our relative plague
Released forever from social dolor.

In suicide a life is squandered,
Surrendered, but, forever remembered.

Samuel Thomas Nichols
January 31, 1979